Rick Steves Self-imposes $1 Million 'Tax' to Offset the Environmental Impact of All the People He Inspires to Travel

Rick Steves feels bad about the impact his travel company has on the environment. And in a Twitter post last week, the travel TV host and tour operator announced his new “self-imposed carbon tax” meant to offset the environmental impact of bringing people to Europe every year.

Tourism is responsible for about eight percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study from Carbon Brief released last year. With the double-whammy of falling airfare and a growing global middle class, the rate of international vacationers in increasing by three to five percent every year.

The Rick Steves travel company announced its plans “to pay our fair share of the environmental cost that our travelers incur, and to do so in a way that empowers communities throughout the developing world.”

The recommended carbon offset for a roundtrip flight to Europe is $30. Because Rick Steves Europe takes approximately 30,000 travelers to the continent every year, that would add up to $900,000 in annual offsets. The company is rounding up to an even $1 million, with the money going to “carefully selected nonprofits that fight climate change through government advocacy and on-the-ground work,” as opposed to offset programs.

Steves recently explained this choice in an interview with Quartz. “Rather than buy carbon offsets (which is a fine thing to do), with this program, I get to enjoy a kind of philanthropic twofer by helping farmers in the developing world have better lives while employing climate-smart agriculture and forestry techniques,” Steves said in the interview. “We look forward to reviewing and reassessing the list of organizations we are supporting each year.”

Earlier this year, Delta Air Lines bought carbon offsets to cover 300,000 people who flew the airline on Earth Day.

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